Review Date: January 4, 2001
Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: 2/13/2001
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16:9 - No
A group of camp counselors and children sit around a campfire telling scary stories. Max, the owner of the camp, finally gets a chance to tell his own scary story after counselor T.P. (Tony Fish) finishes. Max tells the story of a farmer who lived in an old, rundown house just beyond the surrounding trees surrounding. The farmer had a wife and two children that lived in the house with him. But this farmer was an evil man, often beating his children and wife. He would drink heavily at a local bar and start fights with other customers whenever possible. One night, many years ago on this very same night, the farmer finally snapped. He got himself an axe and hacked up his entire family.
Max ends his story, but counselor Richie (Jimmy Steele) doesn't buy it. He wants to know the farmer's name. Max tells him it was Madman Marz (Paul Ehlers), but warns him if you say his name too loud and Marz hears it, he'll come for you that very same night. Richie proves his disbelief by chanting out, "Here we are! Come and get us Mad Marz!". Max immediately yells out into the woods, apologizing to Marz and telling him Richie didn't mean what he said. Finally everyone, including Max, laughs it off as a joke and heads back to the camp for some shuteye.
On the way back to the cabins, Richie spots a figure up in the trees. He goes to investigate, ultimately becoming lost from the rest of the group. Back at the camp, Max tells the group of counselors that he's going to the town for the night to do some errands and play some cards. The counselors, being typical young adults, begin preparing for a night filled with sex and alcohol. Things quickly change when Mad Marz comes out to live up to his legend. He starts killing off various camp workers one by one. More and more counselors go out to search for their missing co-workers, but none of them end up coming back. Soon the only counselor left at the camp is Betsy (Gaylen Ross), who must save herself and the children from the crazed Mad Marz.
Most slashers end up being a guilty pleasure for me. I really enjoy most of the Friday the 13th and Halloween series. All of the ones that have made it onto DVD thus far, I own. Madman ends up being a somewhat enjoyable slasher, but for me it wasn't anywhere near as enjoyable as the other slashers I've mentioned. I think a big problem was the stalker himself, Mad Marz. His makeup isn't all that good, it appears as if he's wearing a wig of some sort and the end result isn't very terrifying. Sure, he's physically large but my first impression when I saw him was to laugh. I think part of the reason that Jason and Michael Myers are so effective is because of the masks they wear. A faceless villan is much more effective. There's no emotions being shown - just a blank, heartless gaze. Everyone used to those blank gazes now, but back in the day they used to be somewhat scary! The gore effects are pretty decent too. Not as good as some of the Friday the 13th sequels, but those obviously had much bigger budgets. For a low budget movie I was impressed with several of the gore shots.
In terms of story, Madman ends up somewhat falling into the "typical slasher" category. You have the horny, stupid teenagers, the camp setting, the crazed mythical killer. Sounds familiar, huh? Just throw a hockey mask in there and guess what movie you have? Madman does have a few original points however, including some cool foreshadowing at the beginning. Not everything in the movie would be as predictable as I first imagined either. I don't want to go into details as it may ruin it for some, but that was certainly a pleasant surprise.
If you're a fan of slashers you'll probably like Madman. Keep in mind there's not too much originality here, but at least there's some, which is more than you can say for a lot of other 80's slashers.
This film was a little slow moving at times, but overall it was a great film once it gets going. It's a tragic film with a sad ending where you really do feel sorry for the living dead girl. This alone makes it a good film as it is convincing and you feel emotion for the characters being portrayed. There's also a fair amount of gore and pleanty of gruesome deaths which always helps! Lets hope Image and Redemption continue to team up and release more DVDs of cult director Jean Rollin's additional films.
Madman is presented in a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The biggest problem I found in the transfer was GRAIN. The entire movie takes place at night; many scenes have light grain, and there's several where the grain gets quite heavy. Overall the image is sharp, but there's a few instances where it appears soft and lacking in detail. Colors are solid and nicely saturated; fleshtones appear accurate. Blacks are slightly bright in a few scenes, but otherwise they're solid as well. Several scenes had a series of small vertical lines appear in the middle of the image, which I can only imagine is some sort of print damage. Besides those, print blemishes are minimal. There's also some white specks that appear at various points - also minimal.
You can't complain too much given this is a forgotten slasher from 1981. Anchor Bay did a decent job on the transfer and this is definitely the best Madman has ever looked, but there's definitely room for some improvement. Another thing to note is that this is NOT an anamorphic transfer. The reason is because the transfer was actually completed a long time ago, before Anchor Bay started doing anamorphic transfers. The title has had numerous delays for various reasons, and is only now being released. I'm rating it a B-, which I think is fair.
Sound is presented in Dolby Digital mono. No distortion or background noises were heard, dialogue was clearly audible throughout playback.
Anchor Bay has included a commentary track with writer/director Joe Giannone, writer/producer Gary Sales, and actors Tony Fish and Paul Ehlers. Joe and Gary do most of the talking and there's very few gaps of silence. They discuss how the film came to be, the quest to get it financed, various aspects of the story, cast and crew, some on-the-set stories and more. One interesting discussion was how another movie was being filmed nearby that was practically identical to this one and the effects it had on their production. Tony and Paul each talk briefly about their respective parts and occasionally chime in during various parts of the commentary. All in all it was an enjoyable commentary track. Now if something like Madman can get a commentary track, why not Friday the 13th? This isn't the place for a rant, but there's no doubt horror fans are all going to be thinking the same thing as they listen to this commentary track.
Rounding out the extras are some TV spots and a theatrical trailer. While this disc isn't particularly heavy on extras, it does have an enjoyable commentary which is a plus.
Anchor Bay give us a decent transfer on this DVD, but there are still some problems that remain. Madman certainly isn't the greatest slasher from it's time, but there was certainly worse. If you enjoy slashers you'll most likely enjoy Madman - there's some decent special effects in it along with a few nice surprises. At a price of only $24.98 the DVD is definitely a good deal, given a bare bones Friday the 13th DVD sells for a $30.
Movie - C+
Image Quality - B-
Sound - B+
Supplements - B
- Running Time - 1 hour 28 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter stops
- Mono sound
- Audio Commentary by writer/director Joe Giannone, writer/producer Gary Sales, actors Tony Fish and Paul Ehlers
- Trailer and TV spot